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Environmental research

Adapting an ambient monitoring program to the challenge of managing emerging pollutants in the San Francisco Estuary.


PMID 17336284

Abstract

While over seven million organic and inorganic compounds that have been indexed by the American Chemical Society's Chemical Abstracts Service in their CAS Registry are commercially available, most pollution monitoring programs focus only on those chemical stressors for which regulatory benchmarks exist, and have been traditionally considered responsible for the most significant human and environmental health risks. Until the late 1990s, the San Francisco Estuary Regional Monitoring Program was no exception in that regard. After a thorough external review, the monitoring program responded to the need for developing a pro-active surveillance approach for emerging pollutants in recognition of the fact that the potential for the growing list of widely used chemical compounds to alter the integrity of water is high. We describe (1) the scientific and analytical bases underlying a new surveillance monitoring approach; (2) summarize approaches used and results obtained from a forensic retrospective; (3) present the growing data set on emerging pollutants from surveillance monitoring and related efforts in the San Francisco Bay Area to characterize newly targeted compounds in wastewater streams, sediment, storm water runoff, and biota; and (4) suggest next steps in monitoring program development and applied research that could move beyond traditional approaches of pollutant characterization. Based on the forensic analysis of archived chromatograms and chemical and toxicological properties of candidate compounds, we quantified a variety of synthetic organic compounds which had previously not been targeted for analysis. Flame retardant compounds, pesticides and insecticide synergists, insect repellents, pharmaceuticals, personal care product ingredients, plasticizers, non-ionic surfactants, and other manufacturing ingredients were detected in water, sediment, and/or biological tissue samples. Several of these compounds, especially polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardants, exhibited concentrations of environmental concern. We also describe environmental management challenges associated with emerging pollutants and how pro-active surveillance monitoring might assist in implementing a more holistic approach to pollution prevention and control before emerging pollutants become a burden on future generations.

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